Filed to ESPN:
#Jets close to finalizing deal for Rams RT Jason Smith, league sources. RT Wayne Hunter part of deal. Smith, No. 2 pick ’09.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) August 28, 2012
And with that, the de-evolution of the Rams’ tackle position is finally complete. It cannot possibly get any worse. From having a future Hall of Famer in Orlando Pace in his prime just seven years ago, to Alex Barron, to Jason Smith, to Barry Richardson, to this. Trading the latest highly-drafted bust (and yes, we can officially call Smith that now) straight up for one of the very worst players in the NFL.
There are ways to rationalize this move, particularly once the terms of the deal are released. If the Rams get a draft pick back as part of the deal, great. If this is a straight-up salary swap, then the Rams can cut Hunter and save themselves cap room compared to the cost of keeping (and potentially cutting) Smith.
One way you cannot justify this move is in optimism for your starting tackle job, your backup tackle job, or any concern at all about Sam Bradford’s health.
In signing Barry Richardson from the Kansas City scrapyard and acquiring Wayne Hunter, this is the “production” that they have accumulated at the tackle position.
17 quarterback hits.
That’s your combined pass-blocking effort from Hunter and Richardson in 2011, two guys who somehow managed to start all 16 games for their teams. No matter how bad Jason Smith was in his time here — and he admitted that at times he sees himself as “somebody who’s not even capable of playing football” — he was never as bad as this.
Jets blogger Joe Caporoso describes Wayne Hunter, perhaps charitably, as “emotionally checked out” in New York. However you describe it, his play, or lack of it, illustrated a man who has completely given up trying.
Meanwhile, Paul Boudreau and the Rams did right by Jason Smith. They took a man who was broken, physically and mentally, and helped him rebuild. They taught him the subtler art of blocking, and put him in low-leverage situations until he started to get it right. I was half-hoping they might have been able to build him back into the starter’s job here, but instead they built up his trade stock and sent him into a presumptive starter’s job.
Now the Rams have to hope that the chemistry between Harvey Dahl and Barry Richardson works out. They have to plan on moving Rokevious Watkins into the starting left guard position sooner rather than later (fine by me) and relying on Quinn Ojinnaka to be the swing man. Because they no longer have a workable Plan B.
I guess the good news is this – it can’t possibly get any worse.